Residential treatment: Last hope for parents of children with mental illness

The increasing rate of mental illnesses among children in the United States is a major health concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 20 percent children (aged 3 to 17) in the U.S. suffer from some kind of mental disorder. Of all the intervention methods for mental problems, residential treatment is considered mostly when other methods fail to improve the condition of the patient.

No parent likes to send his or her child away, especially when he or she is going through a tough time. But for many families, sending a son or daughter to rehab for treatment can often become a necessity. According to an article in The Washington Post, published in January 2017, in 2015, over 270,000 children ages 12 to 17 were treated for mental illness in residential treatment facilities. This means that over a quarter of a million young people were living away from their families while they received treatment.

Placing needs of family above those of a family member

The Washington Post article described the dilemma of families that had to send their children to residential treatment facilities for their mental illnesses. For instance, the Walker’s realized that by the time their son turned seven, they had tried everything – drugs, therapy, diets – to fight his mental illness but no result was visible. Thus, the parents made the painful decision to send him away for residential treatment since they had other children at home and were concerned for their safety. The boy’s mother Christine Walker said, “It’s a last resort, but we had to check into that resort, because we’d done everything else.” He stayed away for seven years.

Walker said that if her son had cancer, she would not feel guilty for sending him to a hospital for treatment. She said that families who send children away for behavioral health treatment face judgment and recrimination. According to Jennifer Zielinski of Idaho Parents Unlimited, “There is a theme that we hear often, that parents are to blame: they need parenting classes or need to learn how to handle their kids.”

Need to understand severity of the problem

The Walkers are not alone. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) said the number of children with a psychiatric disorder exceeds the number of children with cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined.

Often families opt for residential treatment when they find it difficult to handle a son or daughter who has turned violent. The NAMI notes that the onset of all chronic mental illness is 14 years. At that age, a young person, regardless of gender, is capable of inflicting considerable damage.

Families can look out for certain symptoms in their child before opting for a residential treatment. They are:

  • If the child has received multiple diagnoses and has been on or is currently taking different medications, none of which seems to help.
  • If the child has turned the home into a war zone. Both parents and siblings live in fear of the next outburst.
  • If the child has been suspended or expelled from school.
  • If the child gravitates toward alcohol and drugs.
  • If the child threatens himself or others.
  • If the child has been hospitalized for a psychiatric disorder(s).

Seeking treatment

White River Academy (WRA) is a boarding school for boys aged 12 to 17 with behavioral health issues. WRA combines a challenging curriculum with therapy, outdoor activities, community service, and, group and peer counseling to mold troubled young men into responsible young adults. Nestled at the edge of the Great Basin in Utah, WRA extols the virtue of hard work, the beauty of the outdoors and the inestimable value of self-worth and esteem. Contact the 24/7 helpline listed on this web page for more information.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top